“THE SCIENCE OF…Aliens” at the Miami Museum of Science and Planetarium

Aliens are invading South Florida! No, not illegal aliens from neighboring countries, but real ones- the ones stereotyped by the media with green skin, multiple eyes and antennas, have left their galaxies to vacation in the Sunshine State. And they will be staying in the Miami Museum of Science and Planetarium until May 6, 2007.

“The Science of Aliens” explores the concept of other life forms in science and popular culture through interactive activities appealing to kids of all ages. All of the information used in the four-zone exhibit is based on science but is presented in creative and entertaining ways.

“It’s not necessarily to prove they exist, but just to put it out there,” Nikisha Williams, Account Executive for Golin Harris and museum spokesperson said. “What’s to say there isn’t other life out there?”

After passing the globe-turned-alien planet and mural of “The Miami Herald” newspaper clippings in the front of the museum, visitors walk directly into the exhibit. The sunshine-lit lobby suddenly darkens to a futuristic terrain. Black explanation plaques glow neon green and lighted, crop circle-esque shapes dance on the floor.

The towering Alien Queen from the movie Aliens greets people walking into Zone 1. The Alien Fiction section presents the idea of aliens in pop culture. Everything from Lilo and Stitch action figures to “Dracula” and “Frankenstein” movie posters fill the shelves and the walls. A life-size Ewok peers at curious onlookers from around the corner by the original “Star Wars” sketches. There is a telephone to listen to Orson’s broadcast from the movie “War of the Worlds” and those daring enough can press a button and watch themselves transform into an alien.

Zone 2, Alien Science, showcases various Earth organisms that resemble fictional other-worldly creatures. Categorized by location, ocean, land and space, cylindrical glass tubes hold a fish, bat, Venus flytrap and samples of acids and bacteria. Past these specimens, a glimmering map of the universe catches people’s eyes. A bright yellow box encloses an unimpressive dot that symbolizes Earth has a caption that reads, “You are here!” There are spinning maps of galaxies and peep holes to find other planets in space.

Around the black plastic tarp dividers is the most exciting zone, Alien Worlds. Touch sensor projection systems produce images on two long slabs, simulating the planets Aurelia and Blue Moon. Participants touch specific figures to learn about the climate and creatures that could live in these theoretical worlds. Fifteen to twenty people can fit around each table.

The final zone introduces Alien Communication. Passing the magazines stand, guests are forced to ponder questions like, “Is there intelligent life out there?” and “What is intelligence?” They can listen to messages sent out to aliens as well as create their own messages. The silver letters waver on a large computer screen asking visitors to “Imagine you could send a message to aliens. What would you say or ask? Try it here.” With a rolling ball, camera and another green glowing button, visitors scroll through words to craft their statements, take pictures of themselves and click “send.” A giant screen displays the sent extraterrestrial communiqués and sends visitors on their way back to the museum on Earth.

“The Science of Aliens” heads to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania after its run in Miami. It is the first in “The Science of.” series, a ten-year long program that uses interactive methods to excite and educate people across the globe about current scientific developments. Tickets for this special exhibit are $17 for the general public and $15 for students with a valid ID.

Hilary Saunders can be contacted at h.saunders@umiami.edu